Opening September 22 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Armenia!” explores the arts and culture of the Armenians from their conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century through their leading role on international trade routes in the 17th century. The exhibition emphasizes how Armenians developed a distinctive national identity in their homeland at the base of Mount Ararat (widely accepted as the resting place of Noah’s Ark) and how they maintained and transformed their traditions as their communities expanded across the globe.
More than 140 opulent gilded reliquaries, richly illuminated manuscripts, rare textiles, liturgical furnishings made of precious materials, khachkars (cross stones), church models, and printed books demonstrate Armenia’s distinctive imagery in their homeland and other major Armenian sites, from the Kingdom of Cilicia on the Mediterranean to New Julfa, in Safavid Persia. Selected comparative works display Armenian interaction with other cultures.
Major Armenian repositories of their culture provide almost all the works in the exhibition. Most are on view in the United States for the first time; many have not traveled for centuries.
“Armenia!” focuses on major Armenian centers of production from their homeland west and east, with emphasis on images of Armenians, from self-portraits to depictions of male and female rulers, donors, theologians, and historians. Special attention is given to works by major artists such as Toros Roslin, Sargis Pidzak, Toros Taronatsi, and Hakob of Julfa working in the Armenian homeland, the Kingdom of Cilicia, and New Julfa.